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Nitrate water-testing clinic coming to Ottertail

Homeowners who get their water from private wells can have their water tested for nitrate contamination, at no cost, by bringing samples to a water-testing clinic that will be held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Community Center in Ottertail on Thursday, July 15.

The clinic is sponsored by the East Otter Tail Soil and Water Conservation District and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA). It is part of a series of water-testing clinics being offered throughout 2010. Only water from private wells will be tested. Nitrates are the most common contaminants in Minnesota's groundwater, and a significant number of the state's wells have high nitrate levels.

Nitrates can be a major problem when they are consumed by infants because they can cause suffocation due to a condition known as 'blue baby' syndrome. We strongly recommend that people take advantage of this service because studies indicate that between 5 percent and 25 percent of the private wells in greater Minnesota have nitrate levels above the federal drinking water standard.

In order to participate in the testing, homeowners must bring at least one-half cup of water in either a Whirl-Pak plastic bag or a Ziploc-type bag. In order to get a good sample, allow the water to run five to 10 minutes before filling the bag. Homeowners with water treatment equipment should take two water samples-one before and one after the treatment process. Homeowners with just a water softener need to take one sample, either before or after the water passes through the water softener.

Samples should be taken no more than 24 hours before the testing, and they must be refrigerated. Samples should be cool when arriving at the clinic. To ensure accuracy, homeowners should mark the bags with their name, phone number and a well identification number if more than one well is sampled.

Homeowners may remain anonymous. In that case they should simply choose another easily recognized number to put on the well samples. It is not necessary to provide information about the wells from which water is taken.

Samples are analyzed on the spot-the process usually takes less than five minutes-and results are given directly to the homeowner. If the nitrate level in a sample is elevated, clinic staff can refer the homeowner to certified labs that will retest the water.

For more information on the clinic, contact Deb Werner, 218-346-4260 ext. 113.